On one level, the brilliant Withnail and I is a small British film that should have disappeared soon after it's release only to be remembered fondly by the few that saw it at the time.
There are many such films that follow this pattern. Dirty Something, a BBC Screen Two, hour long film made in 1993, notable only for the fact that it was Rachel Weisz first film, is one of them. Lest you get too excited I should make it clear that this film is not as good as Withnail and I but it is little forgotten gem of a film.
I didn't see it when it aired, it hasn't aired since and is not available on DVD or Video. A friend introduced me to this film in around 1996. He had taped it 3 years earlier and had spoken fondly of the film. One night when we were sat in our flat he put the tape on. I fell in love with the film. Not least because the house in the film was not too dissimilar to the abode we inhabited at the time. I have often thought about the film since the time I first saw it and recently managed to find a video copy taped from the TV on eBay.
Dirty something centres around young lovers Becca (Weisz) and Dog ( Paul Reynolds) and an older fellow traveller and sage Larry (Bernard Hill). The film was made around the time when the travelling community of 'Crusties' were in the news and in vogue in Britain.
The film starts at a travellers camp site with a group of men women and children sat around the fire.
A small traveller boy complains to his father that he doesn't want to live in a caravan he wants to live in a house. Enter Larry who begins to tell the tale of Becca and Dog who met at the Glastonbury Festival.
Becca and Dog live in a caravan under a motorway bridge in London. Along with countless other dossers including Larry.
It's out of travelling season as the cold hard Winter is approaching and Becca wants a squat of their own. One day dog awakes to find her gone. Larry tells him she has gone to Weybridge in Surrey, where there are nice houses on quiet streets with no leaks.
We cut to Weybridge where we see Becca eyeing up a selection of derelict boarded up houses, scouting for a squat, She breaks in to a house she believes to be derelict but it isn't. An old lonely man, Bill lives there with his dog Leggit. Rather than calling for the Police to apprehend this intruder, the man asks Becca to stay for tea, so she goes to fetch Dog and in the blink of an eye they are both back at the house.
They stay for tea and Bill says they are welcome to stay over. They stay the night and for several more days, during which they are joined by Larry who obviously wasn't too thrilled with life under a motorway bridge either.
Just as they are getting to know each other, Bill dies and they take his body to a friends pet crematorium instead of informing the authorities as they fear that people of their appearance will they will be suspected of foul play.
So now they have their house. Dog has always feared houses as he grew up in a "concrete prison" of a tower block. Becca decides to take a job as they are in dire need of some cash. She secures a job as a secretary at an architects practice. The age old struggle between maintaining a sense of ones freedom and the need for basic items such as food ensues.
Whilst Becca works her soul sucking corporate job by day Dog and Larry laze around the house. Becca soon feels affronted by this behaviour. Sound familiar anyone?
Rachel's boss Clive soon takes a liking to his new secretary and invites her and Dog to his swanky pad for dinner. Dog feels threatened and alienated by Clive's choice of lifestyle, but Becca aspires to such comfort.
Sensing Becca's discontent, Dog makes an attempt at some home improvements in the run down house. Whilst Becca starts to ascend the rungs of the corporate ladder, Dog gets the diy bug. Larry leaves for the Forest of Dean for a festival. Becca and Dogs shift in to something approaching the norm soon starts to drive a wedge between them Soon enough they are too tired for lovemaking. Dog is obsessed with his diy and Becca's new job is becoming more than a means to an end.
How things end up, I shan't say lest you ever get your hands on a copy.
Paul Reynolds plays the role of Dog for comic effect along the lines of Richard E Grant in the aforementioned Withnail, but his acting is more the school of TV soap opera than the morose subtlety of Grant in that film.
Rachel Weisz is perfect as Becca although her working class accent does shift around a lot during the film. Bernard Hill is great as ever.
Dirty Something is a lovely film, very charming, romantic, not terribly realistic and perfect as a screen two type hour long TV film.
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